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AHA Travel Tips

Traveling is a skill to be nurtured. A good vacation doesn't just happen to you. Preparation helps a lot to ensure the best return on your investment of time and money.

BEFORE FLYING

  • Check the expiry date on your passport as soon as you decide to travel. Some countries won't let you in if you're traveling within 6 months of the expiry date.
  • Always pack and carry 2 - 3 days worth of essentials like underwear, bathing suit, change of clothes, toiletries, medication etc in your carry-on luggage. That way you can manage and start your vacation immediately if your baggage is delayed or lost. This is one of the best things my mom ever advised me to do!
  • Buy a portable digital scale. HEYS has a great lightweight one that calculates up to 100kg.( $32). It's got a hook and a handle. I got it in red for quick find in my suitcase. Bring it with you for managing your overseas shopping and making check-in easy and inexpensive.
  • Check weight allowance for carry-on for all your connecting flights. Air Canada allowed me 10kg but my connecting Singapore Airline only allowed 7kg. I had to check it after my Hong Kong stopover when continuing my flight the next day on Singapore.
  • Have a designated travel toiletry bag always ready to go with small portions of essentials if you go away frequently, even to a cottage. You'll be amazed at how much time you save packing if this detail is ready in advance. Top up your containers when you get home so that there are no surprises next time you grab this bag.
  • Only have 100ml or less containers for your carry-on toiletries. My 120ml sunscreen was confiscated in Hong Kong security at the time this rule was newly installed internationally. Have them in a clear plastic bag ready for inspection. You're only allowed a total of 1 litre carry-on toiletries.
  • Bring a journal. Along with photos it's a great way to record the treasures of details that make up a journey. It's also a great place to pour out your feelings about situations that may not be ideal or that changed your life.
  • Read a little about the place you are headed. It will help with realistic expectations. And check out tripadvisor.com or other sites for comments other travelers made going there or to your hotel.
  • Bring photos or postcards from home to share with the natives of the land you're visiting. Especially of animals and weather not found there. Most people especially children are interested to see your family and where you come from.
  • Remember to keep prohibited things like small Swiss Army knives in your checked luggage. Even when you use the item, return it to your luggage so that you don't get stopped and lose it at security because you forgot to check it on your way home.
  • You always need less than you think. Pack some of your favourite outfits that you'll really enjoy and plan for shifts in weather with layers. Fleece is great for warmth and is lightweight. Leave your favourite jewelry at home.
  • Think about what you'd like to wear several days before leaving. Laundry may need to be done.
  • Two lists- things to do and what to bring is invaluable. You continually revise as you improve your travel skills- I've been working on mine for years in preparation for my 7-8 weeks in Bali each winter. The last thing I added that made my recent trip prep nearly stress free was creating a time line on my tasks. For example: if you need a visa or a new passport, this is something to get several weeks before your departure date. Suspending car insurance can be arranged a few days before leaving- leave yourself a note to activate it again when you return home!. Writing notes to neighbours who are taking care of pets or mail etc. will easier if not left to the last minute. If there's lots to do, break it down week by week or day by day to do as a schedule to follow. Stress gone!
  • Include the obvious on your list. Like taking out the garbage before leaving. Or bringing your passport and flight itinerary. And taking your travel food from the fridge. It's something you don't need to keep in your head if it's on paper. Keep a pen beside your printed out list because additional things will come to mind- jot them down immediately.
  • Shop for toiletries, luggage and travel clothes at least a week before leaving. I know people who were out buying luggage the day of the fight and were so frazzled.
  • Only focus on what you are doing right now. The list will take care of everything waiting to be done. It's the only way to avoid feeling overwhelmed when there's lots to do. If you aren't going to do it now, then stop thinking about it and focus on what you ARE doing right now. This is the best new travel skill I'm mastering.
  • Pack an extra lightweight tote bag for shopping trips and the beach.
  • Alert your credit card provider when you are traveling abroad to ensure you don't have any interruption in your ability to use your card- they will suspend it until they contact you if there's unusual activity.
  • Packing usually takes longer than you expect - finding stuff, ironing, mending, organizing. Start at least 24 hours in advance. Recently Laila was mostly packed two days before flying out, finishing the toiletries and misc stuff the day before flying. That left the whole flight day free and clear for unexpected things and relaxing including having a bath before the night flight. It was amazing to be this ready for a 2 month absence. The less frazzled you are beforehand the sooner you feel you are on vacation.

ON THE PLANE

  • Flying Economy: Aisle seats in the centre section are great for long flights (when seat configuration is in 3's) because you only need to get up for one person in the middle seat. There's also more of a chance the two seats beside you are taken by people traveling together which means you don't ever have to get up. This is a great advantage on long flights. Pay to ensure you get the seat you want.
  • Separate your carry on into what you don't need- stored overhead- like your 3 days of clothing, and put what you need during the flight in a tote bag at your feet.
  • On the plane I ensure most of my needs are met ahead of time. I cook my meals like pasta, grilled chicken, salad, fruit( except to US), carrots and cherry tomatoes are refreshing, nuts and sweets like cookies, and store them in tupperware. That way if I don't like what's being served on a long international flight I've got options. It also frees me to eat and sleep whenever I want. You can't enter a foreign country with food so throw away anything unfinished on the plane. ( You can reuse containers on the way home with food purchased at the airport or favourite restaurant the day you return home.)
  • I carry inflatable pillow, ear plugs and eye mask on all flights.
  • Best investment I made for long haul travel was Noise Cancelling head phones. Get a good set. It removes a lot of the plane engine white noise out of your experience while resting or enjoying movies. They need a cushion at the crown of the headband. Remember the small adaptor for arm rest plug in for movies.
  • Bring along a fully charged Ipod or other portable music device
  • Hand cream helps with the harsh soaps in the toilets. Lip balm helps with the dry air. Throat lozenges just in case.
  • Keep pens nearby, as well as tissue or wet towels.
  • I like to have a silk scarf and woven shawl for portable warmth. The shawl can be used as a blanket.
  • Fleece vest can be more comfortable than a jacket when planes have fluctuating temperatures.
  • If you are a women with hot flashes, layers over a tank top is a good way to go for quick ventilation through your bare shoulders.
  • Wear loose cotton clothing like yoga pants, socks and Crocs for easy access. NEVER walk around an airplane in your stocking feet.
  • Take something to boost your immune system a few days before flying and throughout your time away if you've been very busy before hand or are prone to catching bugs.
  • Hydration is essential to your well being, on the plane and off. Buy a litre of water after security. Then have an empty water bottle on hand that the plane staff fill as you request. Carrying a water bottle keeps you independent and hydrated between naps.

WHILE AWAY

  • A water bottle comes in handy while traveling and it's a greener way to visit a country than continually buying and tossing plastic. Plastic water bottles have unimagined impact on the environment and a small way to help is finding a place to refill a water container.
  • Some credit cards give you 2 weeks travel health insurance coverage automatically. Check to see if you are covered in your plan.
  • When traveling to foreign countries with US dollars, make sure you've got bills printed after 2003. Bali will not accept bills before this date due to counterfeit troubles in the past.
  • Carry business cards on you for new people you meet on the plane and on land.
  • A small lined notebook comes in handy when getting other people's contact info, directions and travel referrals along the way. It's also a good place to jot down the things you wish you'd packed to add to your list for next time!
  • Carry your important documents and cash on your body in a small purse that crosses your chest not just over your shoulder. You can also use a money belt.
  • Don't count your cash in public when you are putting away an ATM withdrawal. Don't pull out all your cash when you are paying for something.
  • Get your cash organized for daily use before you leave your hotel and leave the majority safely out of sight. This is as much a courtesy as it is safety tip when visiting poorer countries.
  • Become familiar with foreign currency in your hotel room.
  • Choose your traveling companions wisely. It helps a lot when you are compatible in spending money, flexibility in itinerary, energy level, temperment, interests, and common courtesy of thoughtfulness - like not hogging the bathroom for hours, or being noisy when returning to a room housing a sleeping roommate.
  • Try traveling alone if you can't find someone with whom you are confident you can get along most of the time. You'll be amazed at how easily you'll find people to eat with and share excursions.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Remember when you're not at home, YOU are the one with the accent. If you are not understood try using other words that mean the same thing. I asked a Balinese woman about the weight of a rock but wasn't understood until I pointed to it and she called it a stone.
  • Everyone wants successful communication. Keep it simple. You'd be amazed at how many colloquial terms you unconsciously use in everyday language.
  • Make sure your contact information is accurate and email it along with your itinerary to family and/or friends. The phone number I left for my Mediterranean cruise turned out to be inaccurate when my family in Toronto tried to notify me that my mother was dying. Urgent efforts required to finally reach me made the tragic situation more difficult.
  • It's up to you to have a good time- no matter what happens. Your attitude and how you feel about what you experience is the only thing you can control.
  • Choose to accept and work with unexpected situations. Practice patience with delays, disappointments and people speaking another language.
  • Remember that you are a guest of the country and its residents whenever you travel. Leave your entitlement at home.
  • Pack curiosity in your pocket. It's the most advantageous travel companion. Curiosity helps bridge differences in culture and behaviour. You'll feel much better being curious about something rather than complaining.
  • Eckhardt Tolle advises not to resist 'what is'. That's the best travel advise to follow.

This is by no means a complete set of traveling tips. Hopefully it helps. Written by Aziza Healing Adventures founder,and solo world traveler, Laila Ghattas. She applies the same thorough attention to detail when leading AHA retreats.

 

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 About Aziza's Holistic Retreats and Art & Therapy Workshops Holistic, Wellness and Yoga Retreats for Women, Individuals and Couples Aziza's Art and Therapy Workshops and Classes Art and Therapy Home Classes Shop for Art, Holistic Gifts and Stylish Home Decor ItemsRegister for Aziza's Holistic Retreats, Women's Workshops, Kayak Tours, Yoga Retreats and Art & Therapy Classes